Another perspective on Richard Heeks' comments on the "digital divide" is that
its replication on ever more local scales make the now routine references to
the global North-South "digital divide" less and less meaningful. Of course
there are real and important differences, but their complexity can easily be

It is now possible for instance, to do e-mail at a small commercial "cabine
telephonique" in Maradi, Niger. Most people in the nearby shops and homes don't
use the service, may not have a very clear idea of what it's about, and have
more pressing concerns to address with limited resources anyway. Improving
connectivity infrastructure and telecom policy in Niger may permit such little
Internet outlets to increase in number, decrease in cost, and expand services,
but that will be juxtaposed alongside illiteracy (basic, not to speak of
technical) and poverty in many more places. This both opens possibilities and
poses problems.

Re John Lawrence's reference to Chinese on the web, the following quotable by
NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman from his article last week entitled "Hype
and Anti-Hype" may be of interest
( ):
"The measure of what's happening with the Internet today is not or the
Nasdaq. It's what is happening in China, where Internet deployment is moving so
fast that Chinese will be the most popular language on the Web by 2007; in
India, where AOL just announced a $100 million investment; and in Europe, where
the net economy is expected to grow twentyfold by 2004."

IMO, outside the "net economy" and in the countries where most of the world's
population lives, one will hopefully see some of the most interesting
applications of this technology as it moves out of boxes, gets free of wires,
and becomes more affordable & less dependent on mice & keyboards (basically the
directions Margaret Grieco and some of the traffic in the thread on software
for illiterate users indicate). Who knows what will pop up from under the
radar, as the "measure of what's happening" in the Internet, in a few years'

As with everything else relating to the new ICTs, our calculations and
terminology will have to adapt quickly.

Don Osborn

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